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Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump  

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  1. 1. Does "Forrest Gump" belong on the AFI list?

    • The AFI and Forrest goes together like peas and carrots
      2
    • JEN-NO!
      11

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  • Poll closed on 11/15/19 at 10:59 PM

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Noticing interesting parallels between FORREST GUMP and 1982’s THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP with Robin Williams. They’re both episodic, life-spanning stories about men born during WWII into chaotic and unknowable universes, and raised by single mothers. At a fundamental level both ask, how do we redefine masculinity in the wake of women’s liberation? But their answers, and the way in which they pose the question, are almost perfectly inverted. 

Gump is a slow-witted Southern boy whose mother sacrifices herself to a man for her son’s education. He learns of women’s lib indirectly through his friend Jenny, who he wants to domesticate. He doesn’t try to make sense of the changing world, however. He just passively fumbles through.

Garp is an overeducated New Englander whose mother rapes a dying WWII vet in order to conceive of her only son without the need of a male partner. Garp learns of women’s lib through his mother, a pioneer of the movement (also named Jenny), thus has no choice but to grapple with the changing world. But he does so with a hypervigilance and futile attempts to gain a sense of control over the chaos.

Gump finds strength in traits historically tantamount to male weakness. When fleeing from bullies chasing him in a truck, he discovers his running super power. He's further rewarded for his running skills with a purple heart for bravery in Vietnam. By contrast, when Garp attacks a bully the man retaliates by climbing into his truck and almost steamrolling him. The closest Garp comes to being a brave war hero pilot like the father he never knew is when a plane crashes into his house.

In a bygone era, Gump might have been judged as effeminate for abstaining from sex with the prostitute, but here he’s rewarded by not dying from an STD like Jenny does. Meanwhile Garp’s extramarital sexual conquests result indirectly in the death of his son. 

The fates of Gump and Garp put their stories into the starkest contrast. After Lieutenant Dan’s sacrifice for his fellow man leaves him bitter and crippled, Gump offers friendship to the isolated man. Once the 60s and first half of the 70s have passed, Gump’s gesture of kindness becomes manifest when "Hurricane Carmen" (see: women's lib) destroys all of the boats surrounding Forrest’s but leaves his floating. Together, Forrest and Dan begin their journey toward riches by embracing their "shrimp" (see: compromised post-60s manhoods). 

Meanwhile in GARP, when feminist extremists’ act of sacrificing their own tongues in solidarity with a mutilated rape victim results in warring factions of women versus men, instead of reaching out to these isolationists, Garp writes a book criticizing them and is shot to death for it. 

GUMP is about a man who despite a conservative upbringing learns to thrive amid changing tides and a failing patriarchy. The key to his success, though, is by remaining a boy — by following his mother’s advice and never growing up or thinking about problems in the world greater than his own. Unfettered by a social conscience, it seems to say, the world is his (white male) shrimp. (Maybe this is why Gump’s waxing philosophical about whether or not we have a destiny rings hollow — that Gump never grows wise only further proves the story’s point.)

GARP is about a man who, despite a liberal upbringing, clings to outmoded ideas about what a man should be and pays the price for it. Unlike Gump, Garp does make attempts to individuate from his mother — by defying her advice to practice abstinence, for example -- each of which ends in disaster. Its fatalistic message seems to be that for men to maintain a sense of identity in a post-feminist world they must continue to inhabit the more harmful traits of the human race that women stereotypically don’t share. The alternative — being better human beings — would require men to sacrifice their manhood.  

Pauline Kael said GARP amounts to nothing more than a castration fantasy. By extension, GUMP’s message might be that being good means never growing a proverbial pair to begin with. 

(Side note: yet another similarity is in both movies the women portraying the heroes’ mothers— Glenn Close and Sally Field— are only 4 and 10 years older, respectively, than the actors playing grownup Garp and Gump.)

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I too have very mixed feelings on this movie.  I absolutely get caught up in it every time I watch it.  As a movie, it is a wonderful trip through the past few decades (at the time of filming).  
 

What I have really thought about the last few years is how utterly messed up of a life Jenny has and how she keeps popping into Forrest's life only when it suits her.  Now I say all of this with the greatest of love for the character and people who may suffer as she did.  Jenny was severely traumatized as a child but there is a certain point where she needs to take responsibility for her actions.  Now I love Robin Wright and how she portrays Jenny.  There is a general sweetness that her life of abuse can not kill.  The writers and director of the film are able to show a very damaged woman without dealing on it too much.  This could be a very different film in many ways but we follow Forrest's perspective as he is generally oblivious to this stuff and Forrest remain devoted to Jenny.  

Several things about Jenny bug me watching this film as an adult:

1- She has sexual relations with a mentally handicapped (not sure the current P.C. term) man.  Maybe once as a kid, but she repeatedly does this throughout the movie.  That scene of Jenny and Forrest in college where she makes him cum is gross and her poor roommate is listening to it all.  Gross in so many ways.  Even Forrest when he proposes to Jenny knows things are odd 

2- She uses Forrest whenever she feels it is comfortable for her and then leaves, never opening his mail or even trying to keep in contact.  She never even bothers to say goodbye most of the time. 

3- She has a child by Forrest and never lets him know.  He is maybe 5 years old before Jenny writes to Forrest about Forrest Jr.  And the assumption is she only does this because Jenny is sick and has been given a terminal diagnosis.  The general assumption is that Jenny has AIDS and I get the feeling she only is looking for someone to take care of her son.  If she had not been sick, would Jenny have ever contacted Forrest about Forrest Jr?

4- I sure as hell hope Jenny and Forrest never have sex again, (once again assuming she has AIDS).  IF so, Forrest may also be a carrier and a 5-year check-in might show Forrest Sr. is now dead as well and Forrest Jr. is now in Foster Care.  

5- Forrest Sr. has parental rights to Forrest Jr?  The dude can hardly take care of himself.  

And yet, in all my complaining I still enjoy this film.   

 

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On 11/7/2019 at 6:33 AM, JJ95 said:

 

Hi everyone!

I find this episode fascinating in regards to the reception of the movie! Especially the apparent difference between the reaction of Americans and Non-Americans. I mean I was shocked when I first heard that people see this as a sweet, wholesome movie!

It’s of course only anecdotal but most Europeans I talked to seem to think of Forrest Gump as a rather scathing deconstruction of America and the American Dream. With Forrest’s story being a parable showing that the American system is unjust and destructive and the only person who can succeed in this environment is someone who ”ignores” reality and blindly does what the system expects them to do ("following orders"), while everyone else who dares to question the dream gets punished HARD (like Jenny). Success in this movie is based on a combination of luck and a lack of critical thinking.

Maybe it’s because there’s already a widespread skepticism regarding what America is and symbolizes and this movie only confirms an already existing negative bias? I don’t know…

In any case a truly fascinating episode for me that makes me question how much you yourself bring to the table when looking at a piece of art...

We have the excuse of Forrest not understanding the events he experiences.  In some was I love this.  I love that he just floats through history.  But as the host mention, this could have been a very different movie if they explored these events a bit more. 

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On 11/7/2019 at 2:57 PM, sycasey 2.0 said:

I think it's very well-made and well-acted pap, but ultimately it's pap. Doesn't really have much to say about anything, and in terms of story it has some really good sequences that have little to do with one another. Whenever it threatens to do some actual satirizing, there's a sentimental sequence right around the corner to disabuse you of that notion.

I did read the book after seeing the movie and was surprised to find a much more sardonic and caustic tone, one that makes it much clearer to the reader that Forrest is more idiot than savant and that his success is an indictment of society. The book is definitely a satire of American culture and history. The movie is mixed messages all the way through. I didn't mind watching it again, but it's not listworthy.

The acting is probably the most praiseworthy thing. I think all of the principals are quite good, but Robin Wright and Gary Sinise should be singled out for recognition (Sinise was nominated, Wright was not).

Do all movies have to say something?  This could have been a very different movie if we had examined these events rather than just floated through them.   

But this is not that movie, and Forrest bring "different" is the excuse for him to be oblivious to these things.  

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Just a quick hit here because everyone is doing a nice job of analyzing Forrest Gump. First: the feather is a metaphor for Forrest and Forrest is a metaphor for all of us. The brightest, most well-intentioned and purpose-driven of us, often move through life with a sort of detachment that insulates us from the unyielding barrage of History that surrounds us and impacts our lives.

ALSO...LBJ would totally, “like to see” Forrest’s ass scar. LBJ, famously showed reporters and photographers his gall bladder surgery scar. Google it!

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4 hours ago, dtaylor86 said:

Do all movies have to say something?  This could have been a very different movie if we had examined these events rather than just floated through them.   

But this is not that movie, and Forrest be "different" is the excuse for him to be oblivious to these things.  

I mean, kind of yeah? Or I'll put it another way: if a movie isn't saying anything, then in my judgment it's lacking. The best films have something to say. Yes, even seemingly light entertainments like Star Wars.

Now, it's entirely possible the movie doesn't intend to say anything about historical events and is instead a commentary on something else, but whatever else I can think of seems kind of muddled and inconsistent to me. Like the "floating like a feather" idea. It's nice, but do the events of the movie actually support it? There are several occasions where Forrest makes active choices: disobeying Lt. Dan and going back to save people, buying the shrimp boat, running across the country, etc., that result in further fame and fortune for him. He didn't completely float through life. So what is the movie saying here? If he truly did float through and got by on pure luck, that might amount to a consistent statement about life or humanity, but the movie keeps hedging its bets.

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5 hours ago, Matthew Fountain said:

(Side note: yet another similarity is in both movies the women portraying the heroes’ mothers— Glenn Close and Sally Field— are only 4 and 10 years older, respectively, than the actors playing grownup Garp and Gump.)

While the perception of women as much "older" than their male counterparts despite being the same age is an ongoing problem, in these cases I think it's justified enough to cast a younger actress to play the part, as they also have to play the same character as a young mother raising a younger child in the early scenes, and then they are aged up with makeup later in the movie.

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6 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Like the "floating like a feather" idea. It's nice, but do the events of the movie actually support it? There are several occasions where Forrest makes active choices: disobeying Lt. Dan and going back to save people, buying the shrimp boat, running across the country, etc., that result in further fame and fortune for him. He didn't completely float through life. So what is the movie saying here?

I brought this up earlier in my own words, but this is what the movie says about that:

I don't know if mama was right or if it's Lieutenant Dan. I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze. But I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”

The wind is destiny guiding us on a path, however the shape of the feather (what we are inside), gives us free will within those events. We don’t plummet straight down like a rock. For example, Fate brought Forrest to Vietnam, what he does there is his choice.

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9 hours ago, Scottcarberry said:

Just a quick hit here because everyone is doing a nice job of analyzing Forrest Gump. First: the feather is a metaphor for Forrest and Forrest is a metaphor for all of us. The brightest, most well-intentioned and purpose-driven of us, often move through life with a sort of detachment that insulates us from the unyielding barrage of History that surrounds us and impacts our lives.

ALSO...LBJ would totally, “like to see” Forrest’s ass scar. LBJ, famously showed reporters and photographers his gall bladder surgery scar. Google it!

BF98422D-4E36-4AE6-AB9E-9F2896210B22.jpeg

LBJ was a strange one.   

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19 hours ago, dtaylor86 said:

Do all movies have to say something?  This could have been a very different movie if we had examined these events rather than just floated through them.   

But this is not that movie, and Forrest bring "different" is the excuse for him to be oblivious to these things.  

In depicting or referencing historical events, a movie reflects a worldview of those events. So to some degree, even if it isn't trying to, it's still saying something.

Even if Forrest doesn't learn anything or have an opinion about these historical events, the movie intends the viewer to - even if that emotion is very shallow and not very reflective (beyond "that was sad"). But if all the movie is doing a greatest hits moments of the past 50 years, and doesn't think about or care about the meanings and consequences, there's a subtle implication those moments aren't don't warrant thinking about.

If it didn't want to have this burden, maybe it should have used the historical settings more as a backdrop/time-passage-marker rather than explicitly calling out moments as highlights.

Just shooting from the hip in trying to explain that. 

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My thoughts pretty much echo everything already said. I liked this movie when I was younger, but I think I just liked it because society was telling me I should or something, because even as a kid watching it I remember being like "okay well now I've seen it, and I'll proceed to forget pretty much everything about it."

Besides the like most iconic parts of this film, I think this is very forgettable. I am shocked that it made it onto this list.

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On 11/11/2019 at 3:43 AM, Cameron H. said:

I brought this up earlier in my own words, but this is what the movie says about that:

I don't know if mama was right or if it's Lieutenant Dan. I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze. But I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”

The wind is destiny guiding us on a path, however the shape of the feather (what we are inside), gives us free will within those events. We don’t plummet straight down like a rock. For example, Fate brought Forrest to Vietnam, what he does there is his choice.

I guess . . . except it wasn't fate? Forrest signed up for the Army. This is what I mean about the message being muddled in the particulars.

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2 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

I guess . . . except it wasn't fate? Forrest signed up for the Army. This is what I mean about the message being muddled in the particulars.

Yes but he probably wouldn’t have been recruited into the Army if he hadn’t been in college. He was in college because he could run fast. He was able to run fast because he was picked on for being slow and he was born with a birth defect that required him to wear leg braces that strengthened his legs. He knew to run because no one would let him sit next to him and so he met Jenny. He only met Jenny because he was born to a woman that would do anything to get him into a “normal” school.

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31 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

Yes but he probably wouldn’t have been recruited into the Army if he hadn’t been in college.

I think that also doesn't quite track. Most Army recruits are not college grads.

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59 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

Yes but he probably wouldn’t have been recruited into the Army if he hadn’t been in college.

He probably would've been drafted. If you were in college then you were exempt.

I'm not sure about them drafting college graduates, though, nor do I know about how they recruit back in the day. I know now they definitely want them before they hit 24, because that's when a man's brain stops growing, so they very much are trying to mold minds to be exactly how they want them to be.

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29 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

I think that also doesn't quite track. Most Army recruits are not college grads.

In the Sixties? Being *in* college could keep you out of the draft, but it’s not like being a college graduate meant you would never go, or not be conscripted into, the military. Hell, we had recruitment officers at my college all the time and that wasn’t all that long ago. 

Also, even if you disregard all that, and it’s true that college graduates usually don’t join the army, that only makes it more clearly fate. At that point in the movie, Forrest was at a crossroads. What exactly was he going to do now? He doesn’t seek out the military. The Army guy just happens to (fate?) come up to him at that *specific* moment. A moment when he’s not sure what to do next.

Again, he makes choices, but those choices are built within a destined framework. Or, as he puts it, it’s both free will and fate.

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4 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

Or, as he puts it, it’s both free will and fate.

And that gets us into a much deeper theological conversation about life lol.

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5 minutes ago, tay-loe anne photo said:

He probably would've been drafted. If you were in college then you were exempt.

I'm not sure about them drafting college graduates, though, nor do I know about how they recruit back in the day. I know now they definitely want them before they hit 24, because that's when a man's brain stops growing, so they very much are trying to mold minds to be exactly how they want them to be.

I believe and Google seems to be confirming this - it referred to as a college deferment, meaning you could be drafted after you graduated. 

With respect to the larger conversation of free will vs fate (ignoring that I hold the views of compatibilism - because a similar enough question could be posed with slightly different semantics) - I can't seem to work myself up to care since the movie was blah in my mind.  Which is pretty impressive since I eat that shit up in so many other movies. (Coen brother movies such as No Country and A Serious Man. Paul Auster did a tv movie called The Music of Chance, I think, that also played with it).

Since I didn't rewatch it, how actively did the movie seem to actively invoke imagery or metaphors on this? You've got the feather floating in the wind and then.. what?  The narration from him and the premise being at least mostly passive in his decision making?

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10 minutes ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Since I didn't rewatch it, how actively did the movie seem to actively invoke imagery or metaphors on this? You've got the feather floating in the wind and then.. what?  The narration from him and the premise being at least mostly passive in his decision making?

Sometimes. The feather is the clearest example. But as I note, I don't think the movie is consistent about it like the Coen Bros are.

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17 minutes ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Since I didn't rewatch it, how actively did the movie seem to actively invoke imagery or metaphors on this? You've got the feather floating in the wind and then.. what?  The narration from him and the premise being at least mostly passive in his decision making?

Off the top of my head, life being “like a box of chocolates...” is a pretty big one. The idea being you have a set box (fate), but what you choose from that box (free will) is up to you.

Shoes are also big. They are an object meant for a set purpose (fate), but where you go in them is up to the wearer (free will). 

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